Gympie mum focused on chemical free beef

PERFECT LIFESTYLE: Karen Jarling with her son Hamish McEwan.
PERFECT LIFESTYLE: Karen Jarling with her son Hamish McEwan. Renee Pilcher

MEET Karen Jarling - a mother, a farmer, a business woman and a wife - an all-round bush superwoman.

A pig farmer's daughter, Ms Jarling was raised on a property near Wolvi, outside Gympie, where she had a "magical" childhood, surrounded by open spaces and a menagerie of animals.

There was never any question she would grow up to work the land. She can remember conversations as a child, with a well-to-do neighbour, about her dream of growing up to be a farmer.

"She was sure you couldn't be a farmer (for a living) … but I've never wanted to be anything else," Ms Jarling said.

Fortunately, she trusted her gut feeling and when she started dating cattleman Warren McEwan, becoming a farmer's wife was a sure bet.

Today the pair runs a chemical-free, grass-fed cattle operation called CGL Beef. Their cattle are run on 1220ha of rolling pastures in Kin Kin, the back-boundary of which is Lake Cootharaba.

It's a purely pasture-based operation, without a speck of grain or a chemical spray in sight.

It has also become a family affair, with sons Hamish, six, and Jonte, three, lending a hand mustering cattle.

"The boys love it. Hamish is just at the stage where he needs a bigger horse. His pony's batteries have just about run out so when that happens, he'll be able to keep up with Dad a lot better," Ms Jarling said.

The family produces meat that is clean, green and local: an idea which started to take shape about 2003.

They now sell beef direct to the public and butcher and deliver meat to the customers' freezers.

But their business, CGL Beef, has not come together without a struggle.

They had been chemical-free for two years when Mr McEwan became ill, a fact attributed to his own contact with chemicals in everyday situations.

"We thought 'well, there's no turning back now, we have to stick to this or we have to sell them (the cattle)' because he would get sick all over again," Ms Jarling said.

"We made a conscious decision that we were going to step away from using chemicals."

At the back of their minds was Warren's experience in the Northern Territory, where buffalo and shorthorn cattle had survived for multiple generations without human or chemical attention.

Today they have adopted a similar approach: minimising interaction with their stock, while ensuring the animals were well and had everything they needed.

Three years ago they bought an angus bull to use over their cross-bred cows and Ms Jarling said the result could be tasted on the plate.

She is also an advocate of kitchen creativity.

"Getting friendly with your kitchen and putting in a little bit of thought and a little bit of time makes a big difference to your overall health and the way the household runs," she said.

When asked how she managed to raise two young boys, run CGL Beef and get a meal on the table, her answer was simple; it is important to take a break from the land every now and then.

"We've learned to take advantage of the little lulls," she said.

"Once upon a time, farming was a lifetime dedication but I think everybody wants a change now and then - that's why we farm the way we do."

Topics:  cattle gympie livestock